AT THE SIGN OF
by Norman Sherwood
ANYONE reading my mail would have little difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that there is a definite "Thirst for knowledge" regarding Old Penny Banks and particularly the Cast Iron Mechanical Banks in which I am particularly interested. I might add they are both my vocation and my avocation and I can well remember when I first passed from the stage of being interested in Banks to being enamoured of them and then eventually fairly wedded to them, to the point where in one of my most often recurring dreams I am always just about to put my eager hand on a whole group of lovely "hitherto unknowns" (the kind which are both the joy and the despair of every real collector) when zingo I awake bankless and disillusioned and somewhat bitter at the unkind tricks of fate.
As I have advanced along the path of addiction to my banks, so has the interest in and collecting of Banks advanced from being a hobby with a few collectors and an occasional dealer picking Banks up here and there as they happened to turn up in Country sales or local auctions or even on neglected junk piles, to the place they have reached today. Looking at his collection any one of many advanced Bank collectors may well say today, as I believe Cinderella’s Godmother said to her when she was clothed in dazzling raiment for the Ball, "Indeed my dear you do not look inconsiderable." And DEAR is certainly the word for some of the rare banks, which so delight our eyes and cause our hearts to beat faster when we by chance discover them, and "not inconsiderable" is the time, money and loving care spent by the true Bank collector in amassing any "considerable" group of these treasures today.
Right now I am doing a great deal of research work among the old foundries of New England. Sometimes among their ruins, sometimes with their successors or assigns—and some of the treasures I have found could tell strange stories and some of their histories which I know "full well"—would delight the heart of any collector.
But sometimes alas—I cannot tell these stories and these histories without talking out of school—violating confidences—or literally giving the show away.
So often the rarest are sold and the history which would greatly add to their value is kept to myself, and this reminds me of a very funny story—I think it is even a true story—
A member of a prominent family—all collectors and real lovers of the gentle are of pursuing the rare antique to its native lair—was in the habit of buying rare pieces of some particular kind of antiques from an old codger who was himself quite a character.
Whenever this haughty lady likes anything—after asking the price she invariably said, "and what is its history my good man?—oh decidedly yes—I must have the history of the piece if I am to buy it." And always obediently he furnished her with a satisfactory history.
But finally he rebelled and the following conversation ensued:
"Seventy-five dollars you say—yes it is very nice and I will take it—but first, you know how particular I am—I simply must have its history."
It had been a trying day for the dealer—he had himself just lost out on a piece he wanted very much and his temper was "worn to shreds," so he blurted out, "By gar, Lady 1 It’s seventy-five dollars and it’s worth every cent of it, but if you want the history it’s gonna be twenty-five more. I ain’t goin’ to make up any more blankety blank lies for lessen twenty-five dollars—so if you want any history to go with it, it’s a hundred even and not a cent less." It is an historical fact that the piece changed hands just "as is" or "was" at seventy-five dollars.
Anne knows more about Mechanical Banks than, I think, any other little girl in the world—so I take fatherly pride in presenting a picture of Anne Sherwood, aged six years (although still only four and a half years old when this picture was taken) and most certainly the youngest authority on Old Mechanical Penny Banks.
Editor’s Note: Beginning with our next issue of AVOCATIONS, Mr. Sherwood will endeavor to personally answer any reasonable question on the subject of Old Toy Mechanical Penny Banks. Please enclosed stamped and self-addressed envelope when a reply is asked. No appraisals of Banks will be given. A number of letters containing subjects or material of general interest to all Bank Collectors will be selected each month, and discussed and answered publicly in the columns of The Forum.